So here’s a scenario: You just finish a show. A fan buys you a beer and introduces himself. Turns out he is a graphic designer and has a great idea for a t-shirt which will incorporate your band’s name. You half-way listen, notice the shirt he is wearing now (one of his original designs) and say: “sure, that sounds great.” He mumbles something about how amazing it is going to be and that he will talk to you when the shirt is ready to sell. At this point you are more interested in the bartender or perhaps who is going to buy your next beer.
What’s the big deal? Just a harmless conversation? Maybe.
Two months go by. You walk into your favorite store and almost soil yourself. Sure enough, there is a t-shirt with your band’s name on it in a design that is somehow vaguely familiar. When you ask your buddy working at the store where he got the shirts (which are selling for 40 bucks a pop), he says: “we bought them from some local designer; isn’t he part of your crew?”
Two thoughts probably enter your head: (1) who the hell made these shirts without asking me and (2) why aren’t we getting paid one dollar out of the forty dollars being paid for each shirt?
Now you have to get your lawyer involved and pay her to figure out what happened and why? All this from some seemingly harmless conversation at some random club.
The more established you are as an artist, the bigger target you become to “entrepreneurs” who see only $$$. When your fan asked you if you wanted him to make a t-shirt for your band, you said yes. Your conversation, to him, was a contract. The payment terms, representations and warranties will all fall into place later (if ever).
Keep this in mind, what may seem like nothing more than a few words between you and your fan may be an oral contract to your fan. If the right set of facts exist, oral contracts are just as enforceable as a written agreement.
This again points to the importance of having the right team assembled. It is so much easier for a musician to turn to any fan who wants anything (and I mean anything from a t-shirt designer to a girl who wants to dance in your next video) and say these three important words: “ASK MY MANAGER.” Directing any questions or demands to your manager, lawyer, business manager lets you focus on what you do best and avoids situations like the rouge t-shirt designer. Make those three words your mantra. Live by them.